Thursday, March 3, 2011

Flash Mobs on the Magnificient Mile

Have you heard about these flash mobs? I’d seen the “everyone gets up and sings a Christmas carol” one on You Tube, which seemed sweet, but of course people have found ways to use the flash mob for more nefarious purposes.

Specifically, teenagers, and specifically on Michigan Avenue. If you are unfamiliar with Chicago, Michigan Avenue is the tourist/shopping drag of the city. It is Chicago’s Fifth Avenue.  Apparently a number of stores on Michigan Avenue – Filene’s Basement, North Face, Armani Exchange, Express, Walgreens, 7-11, and The Gap have been “flash mobbed” recently. “Flash mobbing” for theft involves a group of teenagers (anywhere from 10 on up, but enough to overwhelm) who run into a store, cause a ruckus in the manner of yelling or destruction, then grab merchandise and run out the door. Can you imagine? Thankfully, at least some of the teens involved in these incidents were captured and charged:
The arrests follow a spate of similar shoplifting incidents over the last two weeks on Michigan Avenue in which large groups of youths use their sheer numbers to overwhelm and confuse store employees, staff at all three stores said.
"More than 15 of them came in the store, and then one of the boy’s shouted ‘Snatch!,’ and all you could hear was hangers being ripped off rails,” said a worker at Filene’s Basement, who asked not to be named because she is not authorized to speak with the press.
As the thieves ran from the store, one yelled out “Meet you on the Red Line!” she said.

At least $280 worth of merchandise was stolen from Filene’s, while goods worth $2,720 were stolen from North Face and $2,247 from Armani Exchange.

The girls, aged between 14 and 16, and the boys, aged between 15 and 17, were arrested within three minutes of each other and were charged as juveniles with retail theft, police said.
I don’t know why I’m so surprised by this, but I am. I’ve heard about this happening in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Philadelphia also. Where does such a complete lack of respect for other people’s property come from? I couldn’t have even fathomed doing something like this when I was a teenager. More importantly, what can a store really do about it? I imagine it happens to fast they barely have time to react and respond. Even if the store had a security guard, isn’t one security guard useless against a mob? Even if they get caught there is likely still damage to the store, and the fright it probably put into the shoppers and employees. It really just makes me sick.

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